It started like this: Val went on MySpace to look at Isaac's music page (or something) and somehow managed to find the page of someone who looked ridiculously like Bryan O'Neill, with whom we'd gone to high school and who Val had dated for a while roundabouts junior year. The page didn't use the creator's real name, though, so she showed it to me to get my take on whether it was actually Bry or not. (My assessment: yes. Yes it is.)
I then said, well, maybe he's also on Friendster and we can gather some additional clues. So I signed in and we searched for profiles that included "East Lyme." Bryan wasn't among them, but we did find a few other familiar faces, including Tracy, who had managed to find me and make me a friend sometime last year. (Are you following this? Good.)
So we looked at Tracy's page, and, this being the point of Friendster, looked at Tracy's friends--one of whom appeared, at least in cyberland, cute and charming in that delightful tallskinnyalternaboy way that I'm such a sucker for. We clicked through his photos and read his profile before signing off for the night.
I was surprised the next day to find notice in my Inbox of a message from this boy waiting for me at Friendster. He, of course, could see via the annoyingly addictive Who's Viewed Me that I'd looked at his profile, and he began his message, "Hello friend of Tracy." I replied. He replied to my reply. Continue that line.
He mentioned in one of his notes having just visited the source of our connection (i.e., the aforementioned Tracy), which led me to wonder how she's doing and where she is, and, in that moment of curiosity, to crack open my copy of the 1992 East Lyme High School Valhalla to see if she had signed it (no, at least not from what I could tell), and then to do a quick browse of photos and messages scribbled across pages.
And here's where Mike Zarkin comes in: there among the inscriptions from friends and classmates and acquaintances was a message from Mike, who, as I recall, was one of the school's resident conservatives, and a person with whom I frequently butted heads. We had many of the same classes, which gave us ample time to drive each other nuts, me the President of the ELHS Chapter of Amnesty International and Mike the one member of Don Bodwell's Poli Sci class who would stick up for the Republicans.
This is what he wrote:
Battling with you for the past four years of high school history and English has been great. It's always been a pleasure having you for a friend, even if we don't see eye-to-eye. I wish you all the best for the future, and I'm sure you'll go far. May you always see a thousand reasons to rejoice.
Maybe it's PMS, or the jumble of emotions that always comes from looking backwards, or wondering whether the bits and pieces we heard about Mike after graduation (a tough time at college, a difficult exit from the closet, a return to East Lyme) were true, or some combination of the above, but reading his note made me sniffly.
I got sniffly because although one should never read too much into yearbook scribblings, I do believe that there was sincere benevolence in his words, and I can only hope (though I sort of doubt) that I had the maturity to write something even half as kind in his book.
I got sniffly because something catches in my throat when I wonder who and what I'd find if I went to one of my high school reunions--and who and what I wouldn't.
I got sniffly, Mike Zarkin, because although I've dodged my share of life's slings and arrows, I'm still amazed at all I have to be grateful: friends and family who love me fiercely, the chance to traipse around the globe, a strong and growing business, a gift with words, an intriguing boy in Portland, more goodness than I can really comprehend.
I still see a thousand reasons to rejoice, Mike, and wherever you are, I hope you do, too.
I recently returned from a two-week jaunt in Europe, the first portion of which I spent in Slovenia with my friend John, his ass-kickin' wife Magda, and their unspeakably cute son Adam. J and I had blazed a trail across much of southern Europe in 2002, and he was kind enough to offer to serve as host/interpreter/tour guide/source of entertainment this time around, too.
A damn good thing, too, as there's simply no way I would've survived in Slovenia without la famille Stephens. Not only don't I speak the language (beyond words which would allow me to call for ice cream, a stroller, an elephant, wine, or help), I don't drive standard, which would put me at the mercy of public transport, a sketchy proposition given my aforementioned lack of language skills. I also would've had to fend for myself in terms of shelter and foodstuffs, not to mention price computations (how many tolars is too many tolars?), sightseeing, and general cultural competence.
So J and M, try to imagine (can you imagine?) how grateful I am to you for your willingness to fetch me from Malpensa, ferry me back across the border, house me, feed me, drive me around the country, speak for me, entertain me, and generally welcome me into your home as if I well and truly belonged there. Thanks for being so unstoppably generous. I hope someday you'll bring the brood to SF/Vancouver and I'll be able to even begin to return the favor.
And to you, sweet little Adam, thanks for being the most charming and adorable howler monkey an auntie could ask for. I miss you to bits and pieces.